CATEGORY: BI Tools

REVIEWER: Joe Polsgrove, systems developer, Data Management Group for the Consumer Insurance Division of Royal & SunAlliance.

BACKGROUND: One of the 20 largest property and casualty insurers in the United States, Royal & SunAlliance USA delivers a variety of client-driven insurance solutions. Royal & SunAlliance USA is part of London-based Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Group plc, which transacts business in more than 130 countries and ranks as one of the 10 largest multiline insurers in the world with premiums of more than $17 billion.

PLATFORMS: Forest & Trees from Computer Associates (CA) is distributed on local workstations, operates under Windows 95 and interfaces with a Sybase database. Currently, Royal & SunAlliance USA is running Forest & Trees 6.0 with plans to install 6.11 and upgrade to Windows 2000.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Royal SunAlliance's users needed to perform more thorough data analysis and understand and analyze vast volumes of data. We required a tool that was easy to use and flexible. We have quite a number of ad hoc reports that demand extensive detail. We sought a tool that would offer query building and allow users to create their own reports. IT also needed a more flexible application development tool to create and customize existing applications. Forest & Trees meets and supports these business requirements by providing access to a sophisticated graphical business intelligence tool. Graphical wizards provide a supportive interface to implement hundreds of functions including the presentation of buttons, graphs, cross-tabs, application navigation, alarming, Web interaction and much more ­ allowing us to make better, faster business decisions. The easy-to-learn development environment of Forest & Trees requires virtually no programming and permits us to customize quickly and painlessly.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: CA's Forest & Trees is a rapid, visual application development environment that focuses on delivering executive information systems (EISs) and decision support systems (DSSs). It is the fastest and easiest way to build applications that retrieve, analyze and visualize business data for decision-makers. The product's point-and-click, dialog-based development environment accommodates people with a wide range of skills, from spreadsheet users who want a quick snapshot of business activity to programmers who must build highly intuitive, feature-rich applications under tight deadlines.

STRENGTHS: Forest & Trees is easy to use, yet it is flexible and powerful. It has the ability to manage a development environment and allows the nontechnical user to easily develop and safely execute query, analysis and reports without being proficient in SQL. The query wizard allows the end users to create their own standard reports easily and quickly and to view data in charts, graphs or maps. Reuse of application components allows us to shorten our development time and manage our development resources more effectively.

WEAKNESSES: We use a standard interface to Sybase. Because of this, the query functions are limited in the dictionary properties. In an Oracle or DB2 interface, there are a lot more query functions readily available.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected CA's Forest & Trees over other competing products because of its rapid, intuitive functionality and ease of customization. In addition, it provides our end users with robust ad hoc query and reporting capabilities. Additionally, we found other products to be less user-friendly than CA's Forest & Trees.

DELIVERABLES: Since the implementation of Forest & Trees, we have been able to bring various reporting factors into one location so that correlations can be made. Our business users demand a customized solution. Forest & Trees includes all the components to allow them to develop highly intuitive business intelligence applications. The result is an effective query and reporting environment that end users accept as a better way of doing business.

VENDOR SUPPORT: CA's expertise and professionalism are commendable. They understand our business, and I have every confidence in their ability to solve problems quickly and in a proactive manner. We are very satisfied with the support provided by CA.

DOCUMENTATION: CA's online help is exceptional. I find it quite easy to use and navigate. Not only is the information I am looking for very helpful, but I am able to find the information in a timely fashion which is perhaps equally important.

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